Uncovering the Pride and PREJUDICE of Banned Books


Grace Klauer, Journalist

Banned Books Week, the annual festivity celebrating the freedom to read across the United States. It spotlights the various novels held under fire and scrutiny due to the controversial issues featured among them. However, it is up to debate whether or not these books are truly “controversial.”

For starters, how do we define ‘controversy’? As defined by The American Heritage College Dictionary, ‘controversy’ is, “A dispute between sides holding opposing views.” 

By definition, banned books are a clear controversy between students and school boards. This is an issue that affects our own area of Hampton Roads.

According to The Virginia Pilot, there is an ongoing matter being addressed by the Virginia Beach school board concerning four books including, Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe, Lawn Boy by Jonathan Evison, The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, and A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest Gaines.

Two board members, Victoria Manning and Laura Hughes, have expressed distress over the “sexually explicit” material and content featuring “pedophilia.”

While these books are up for review in Virginia Beach, Chesapeake Public Schools currently is not investigating any books for review. Educators in Chesapeake have considered this new surge in banned books.

“It’s a great way to get people interested in exactly the book that is provoking whatever that response is,” Mr. Harver, an AP Language teacher at Western Branch High School, said. “It adds a layer of taboo that is interesting and inviting.”

Not only does the banning of books lead to increased interest, but this type of censoring can be harmful to the students.

“I do not support banning books,” Mrs. Hinton, AP Literature teacher at Western Branch High School, said. “I do understand not allowing certain novels to be taught, especially at certain grade levels, and I understand why some books are not on the school reading list, but I just do not support censoring of books.”

Censoring students from ideas that are controversial to some, but not all, limits their access to stories and experiences outside of their own.

“Banning a book that is highly sexual- yes, we should definitely not have that at school. Banning books that use curse words, talk about religion, or other things should stay,” Ryleigh Fryske, 10, said.  ‘It’s a learning opportunity to realize what’s out there. I feel like it’s sheltering if you don’t.”

Fryske’s statement is in full alignment with the First Amendment. 

According to the ALA American Library Association, “the First Amendment gives everyone residing in the United States the right to hear all sides of every issue and to make their own judgments about those issues without government interference or limitations.”

The First Amendment in the Bill of Rights directly gives freedom to read and interpret what we as Americans wish. ‘Sheltering’ as Fryske put it, is what school boards are attempting to implement. 

“I don’t think we should have any books banned honestly, I think anything should be fair game and that’s the real world, where you can be exposed to anything and we should be prepared for that in school,” Graham Terry, 12, said.  

The people of Western Branch have spoken. It may very well be time for a change, which in my book, is long overdue.